By Bongani Ndlovu
Only bars and restaurants serving hotel residents are allowed to sell alcohol and any other outlets including supermarkets are banned from doing so, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday.
Following a spike in coronavirus cases, Zimbabwe was put under level four lockdown which reintroduced a 6PM to 6AM curfew.
Under the lockdown regulations announced last Saturday by Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care only essential businesses such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks, can remain open and all gatherings such as wedding ceremonies or religious services are banned, with the exception of funerals, which are limited to 30 people.
Yesterday, there was panic on the liquor streets of Bulawayo as imbibers shared pictures of leading supermarkets putting up notices that they were no longer selling alcohol.
Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp were awash with pictures of alcohol sections of different supermarkets shutting down.
Bottle stores, bars and other leisure centres were banned from operating leaving, before yesterday, only supermarkets to sell alcohol during the lockdown.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi said Statutory Instrument (SI) 10 of 2021 means that even supermarkets are not supposed to sell alcohol and those who have stopped are doing so correctly under the lockdown regulations.
“The only places that were allowed to sell alcohol are hotels for their residents. If there’s a bottle store in a supermarket it’s supposed to be closed. The SI banned the sale of alcohol in bottle stores, supermarkets, except hotels. Those chain supermarkets have segments, if they have a bottle store in the supermarkets they should be closed. I think they are correct if they are stopping the sale of alcohol,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“Bottle stores and bars are potential hazardous places for the spread of Covid-19. Generally, alcohol leads to non-compliance. Our aim is to ensure that people comply and stay at home and we arrest new infections.”
Workers at various supermarkets yesterday said they were told not to sell alcohol on Thursday at the end of the day.
At a TM Pick n Pay outlet in Bulawayo, the section where alcohol is normally housed was emptied with the social lubricants replaced by rows and rows of, most curiously, fruit juices.
Fridges that chill lagers and beer were sealed off and notices that they were out of order were placed in front of them.
Spirits and wines have a longer shelf life, but beverages such as opaque beer (amasese), go bad after a week and carbonated sorghum beer (Super) goes bad after two weeks, while lagers and beers have a six-to-nine-month shelf life, according to a source at an alcohol manufacturing plant.
Announcing the lockdown measures, VP Chiwenga said: “Just to be clear, restaurants, bottle stores and bars are closed for 30 days except for bars and restaurants serving hotel residents. Also, tourist facilities and national parks will operate as before subject to the usual health precautions.”
When South Africa introduced an alcohol ban last year a move authorities said was meant to prevent drunken fighting, cut domestic violence and eliminate weekend binge-drinking prevalent across that country, doctors and police said the previous ban contributed to a sharp drop in emergency admissions to hospitals. But the country’s brewers and wine makers complained that they were being driven out of business.
In a statement on Thursday, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe expressed concern over the hosting of wild parties which have become super spreaders of the deadly virus. He said police will be deployed to all areas and anyone found on the wrong side of the law will pay the price. The Minister said his Ministry was concerned with bars, night clubs, restaurants, and other business entities who are operating yet according to Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021, are banned.
“I am equally disturbed by some shopping centres in some areas in the country which are now known for wild parties, beer drinking binges and all sorts of illegalities. This should stop forthwith. Police officers will move around all suburbs, shopping centres and even check houses to account for transgressions against Covid regulations and other criminal activities,” he said.
“I urge the public to report to any nearest police station, individuals or groups holding parties or musical events or any other gatherings not sanctioned under Covid-19 regulations. Organisers of such events will face the wrath of the law and risk losing their licences.”
Minister Kazembe said security agents are there to enforce regulations while it is the responsibility of citizens to stop the spread of the pandemic. The Chronicle